On being outwardly competent…

I finished filling in the WCA form earlier this week and had only to sign it once I’d picked the supporting letter from my GP up from his surgery. I’m proud of the way I handled the form filling process. It was stressful, depressing and anxiety inducing but I did it in my own time and at my own pace. It was harder because it proved impossible to get help from an “expert” or charity to do it. Mental health charities couldn’t (or wouldn’t) help, CAB has a turn up and see policy which is destructive for those with mental health problems and the only other people who may, and I stress the word may, have helped were two bus rides away in each direction. So that left me in a position where, had I not already suffered at the hands of the discriminators, I certainly would be feeling that I had now.

The opening paragraph of the letter that my GP wrote spoke of the me 12 years ago. I lived in a world where I planned suicide to the point I had different plans for different seasons. I would not contemplate using a method in the winter if I had deemed it a way to die in the summer and vice versa. I was reminded of how I’d talked about this to my GP and rationalised how one method was a “good one for cold weather” because there would be momentary heat of a kind in the final moments. I have struggled long and hard to leave that part of my life behind but, if I’m totally honest, suicidal thoughts are always a little too close for comfort.

It was hard reading the line that the stability of my moods is as good as it’s going to get. The disruptive and multiple daily cycles are never going to ease. I will wake in the night as I move from depressed to manic for the rest of my life. I will never know how it feels to wake in the morning and have stability through an entire day. Even at my most stable I have never had a day where I didn’t experience at least one change of mood.

It hurts that I am described as being easily stressed, not because I am inadequate but because I am easily overwhelmed. It’s a way of saying that I’m not built for life and that life is certainly not built for me. On the outside I look like any other person but on the inside I’m unimaginable to most people and this is what frightens people so much about poor mental health. It is unimaginable, unfathomable and terrifying. Try living with it and see how scary that lack of understanding really makes it.

He writes that my current state of “relative stability” would be a nightmare for most people but for me it’s a significant achievement. That makes me so sad and I’m in tears just thinking about it. I work so hard to get within the normal range of moods and never get there. I have never had those normal range of moods having experienced my first depressive episode aged 11 and developing diagnosable Bipolar Disorder by the time I was 16. My normality is a huge struggle.

If you’re expecting a line here to say I carry on with my life, my interests and hobbies in spite of Bipolar Disorder then you’re wrong. It is pointless trying to live to spite something or someone as all it does is open a gateway to resentment. Resentment is pointless: everybody recognises what is going on but, like peeing down your leg, you’re the only one that feels it and you’re the one that has to clear up the mess.

What I do is live. I do it as well as I can which is actually quite a low level but I’m happy most of the time. I write, I take photos, I have a small menagerie of animals and all this gives me a structure to my day which is really good for me. I don’t have a “purpose” in my life to pursue because it’s a full time job just being me getting through the days and get through them I do.

I was advised to approach the WCA form carefully and to remind myself that I was talking about my worst times and not my best times. The fact is that I can have my best times and my worst times in the same day. There is little difference and it stings that I can’t describe that with any fluency to anybody. It’s truly a foreign experience.

What has come out of the form filling experience for me is that people mean well but they often miss. They think they understand but if I don’t how can they? I have an incredible GP who has been so patient and considerate with me at times when I would have slapped me. I have a small but wonderful circle of friends who just love me and would even if I wasn’t a basket case.

It’s been difficult seeing where I was, where I am now and knowing that I could find my way back there quickly. Life is uncertain at the moment but I’m doing what I can to make the road a little more walkable and, as my Health & Welfare and Finance LPAs are registered then I know that if I can’t make major decisions should my mind really mess up then someone else is willing to do that for me.

I’m not brave really but I don’t know how not to fight and that is my salvation.

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